Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Weight Watchers Didn't Work For You? Me Neither.

I read some research ages ago about how men and women respond differently when a diet fails.  While men will simply say that some weight-loss supplement or dietary change didn’t work women will qualify by saying “It didn’t work for me.” 

That “for me” is significant because there is a sub-text, a self-blaming.  Intellectually we understand that everyone is different, that our bodies respond differently to different things.  My friend Kanika cannot take ibuprofen because it upsets her stomach.  I take most medications and become sleepy.  One person’s daily dose is another person’s overdose. 

We are all of us different.  But women blame themselves, for not being good enough, for not following the diet carefully, for not losing the weight.  It didn’t work.  Period.  End of story.  Which is why I am writing this blog post about why I think Weight Watchers didn’t work for me because I know I am not the only one who found it didn’t work.   Sure, the research proves that Weight Watchers is the most effective way for people to lose weight.  Statistically it works.  The body is not a statistic.  Here is my Weight Watchers story.

When I joined Weight Watchers, I was beginning physical therapy.  I went from being about 90% sedentary to 50% active.  I was exercising and every week Rob would drive me to the meetings.  At the time there were two programs:  the points program and the core program.  I tried both in the six months I was a member.  I kept a food diary, tracked my progress (or lack thereof) online and off. 

My diet didn’t change really.  At the most, I had to eat more which meant my forcing myself to eat when I was not hungry.  This didn’t make sense but with the point system I had a daily requirement, a goal for how much I needed to eat on any given day and I was determined to do this thing right.  So, at the end of the day, Rob would sometimes remind me to check my points.  I would and we’d try to figure out what I needed to force myself to eat this time.  A snack, a protein, a piece of fruit. 

Recommendations at the meetings were not always the healthiest choice.  Processed and prepackaged foods would be mentioned time and time again.  So easy.  So convenient.  Just pop it in the microwave and you’re done.  No mention of the calories one can burn cooking from scratch. No comments about how chemicals are not as nutritious as organic.  Coupons for the latest 100 calorie snack, granola bar, frozen meal, jarred or canned something or other. All of these would be touted.  So when I would step in with my recommending something as insane as cooking from scratch, people would dismiss me for complicating things.  Never mind that we were there to share our ideas of how to live a healthy lifestyle because, don’t you know the local fast food place is introducing something new and it’s only 5 points? 

In spite of my being more active, I never lost any weight.  Week after week, I would go into the meetings and weigh myself.  No change.  Week after week I would clap as others lost 1, 2, or 3 pounds.  I would clap as someone earned the first 5 lbs lost key chain and then the first 10 lbs lost charm.  Or maybe you got a charm sooner.  I wouldn’t know.  I never even got a bloody keychain.  And yes, it was discouraging.  I was eating more than was comfortable for me, forcing myself to ignore my natural appetite so I could consume enough points.  I was exercising more than I had been in months.  And still I didn’t lose weight. 

Six months of this and I didn’t beat myself up, although I was disappointed.  I recognized that many of the people who were new to the program were not eating well to begin with.  For them, eating only so many points a day actually resulted in their eating less per day rather than more.  And if they were eating processed foods, it wasn’t necessarily unusual.  Stopping off at the fast food place and choosing the new 5 point offering was better than what they would have ordered before joining Weight Watchers.  And those who never found time to exercise would be encouraged to exercise because they earned points for doing so and more points meant eating more food. 

For someone like me, someone eager to exercise because I wanted to be free from using my walker, for someone like me who preferred to meals cooked from scratch, for someone like me who only ate fast food once a month on average, the Weight Watcher’s diet didn’t improve my life or my lifestyle.  And it taught me to not listen to my body.  Hungry or not, I had to hit those points. 

So it makes sense that it didn’t work for me.  And maybe there are others who don’t understand why it doesn’t work for them.  Who gave it all a fair shake and counted their points, measured their portions, and still didn’t lose any weight.  Six months and not even one pound?  My body and Weight Watchers?  Not a good fit.  And that’s okay.  Not my fault.  Not the fault of the program.

 If one thing worked for everybody, for every body, then there would only be one diet program out there, one exercise program, one solution.   So no blame.  Just an objective attempt to make sense of why and then moving on to the next hope, the next expectation, and maybe to that one pound finally lost. 

The success is not merely in the losing.  It is in the determination to lose and do what can work, what should work, and not blaming yourself if this one thing didn’t quite work after all.


  1. Weight Watchers wouldn't be a good fit for me either because as a vegetarian I could eat half the contents of my refrigerator and still be under points no matter how many calories I consumed.

    1. Heather, that was a big part of my problem. Going into it, I quickly realized that I eat very well, better than most. I understand portion sizes. I am aware of the need for fat to help absorb certain nutrients. The thought of putting more than a tablespoon of dressing on a salad makes me cringe. I'd rather drink water than soda.

      But other people don't eat a lot of veggies, don't know that a bowl of ice cream is more than a single serving, etc. For them, Weight Watchers is probably very enlightening. For someone who strives to eat a well-balanced diet every day, it can only then become moral support through meetings and such. Unfortunately, going for six months without losing even one pound while applauding other people's weight loss success was very demoralizing after a while.

  2. I don't mean to over simplify but sometimes we are meant to be the size we are :)...

    A few years ago I learned that I actually need a low calorie diet, very low. I'm 50% Swedish, from a small fishing village on the Baltic Sea. They eat a low fat diet, mostly white in color (fish and potatoes). Once I adjusted my diet to my genealogy I noticed changes and all of the sudden I can eat without guilt (ie: dessert when we dine out). I also eat only every 5-8 hours, allowing time for my body to process and rest.

    My point... there's no right way. My diet looks strange but works for me and I feel amazing (am never tired, healthy).

    Good luck with the weightloss, I don't know how much you are trying to lose but know this is overwhelming at times.

    Try to be forgiving :)

    1. mpartyka, I never experience guilt while eating. I love food and appreciate the necessity of it.

      Your point about adapting your diet to your genetics is precisely the reason I talk so often about how essential it is to really listen to our bodies. It's also why, no matter how successful a diet or exercise regime may be for one people, or even statistically for most people, women need to stop beating themselves up when it doesn't work on an individual level. If one thing doesn't work, just set it aside and try something else. The failure is not in you unless you allow one defeat to be a defining moment.

      Weight loss is overwhelming. And I've been fighting this battle since 2007.

  3. I resisted Weight Watchers precisely because I knew it was going to annoy the heck out of me that it would be easier to count a slice of their brand-name items than it was going to be to compute the points for my home-made equivalents. There are enough things I resent about the process of losing weight, I didn't need that one.

    Good for you for figuring out that it didn't work for you.

    Joy's Book Blog

    1. In all fairness, not all the talk was about Weight Watchers products. Other low point items would be mentioned and other people in the meetings would share their latest discoveries--some new food option at a Starbucks or some fast food place or frozen meal. It was just that a lot of the emphasis was on "throw it in the microwave and you're done." What about the calories burned while preparing a meal? Sure, there aren't a lot of calories used but more than are burned throwing something in a microwave. And standing and preparing a meal is better than the constant sitting our society seems to be doing. I just didn't understand how nobody else but myself and Rob seemed to actually appreciate the process of preparing a full meal.